Summary: Between His resurrection and ascension Jesus made several appearances, proving what He did, teaching what it meant, and showing forgiveness before He went home.
Last Sunday was Easter Morning, people all over the world gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and all that means to us. Today I want to talk about what happened next. Because usually in church we go from talking about Jesus resurrection, Easter, to Jesus Ascension into Heaven, which we use to talk about evangelism, mostly. But there was a lot that Jesus did during this time period. He didn’t just make one appearance but several. Not all of them are mentioned in scripture, but each of the ones that are has a purpose to it.
So today, we’re going to look at some of those appearances and look at the lessons that we can learn from them. But before we do that I want us to look at something interesting. As I’ve looked at the story of the resurrection, there’s something that I noticed we don’t see. We don’t see Jesus appearing to the disciples. He appeared to Mary Magdalene later but the report that Peter and John first received in John 20:2 was, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So the ladies didn’t understand it exactly. This was a thing that simply couldn’t happen. Now when Peter gets to the tomb John describes it like this, “He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.”
Now some would say that this means that they believed the resurrection had happened but it may just mean that they believed that the tomb was now empty. Note the next verse, verse 9 which the author put into parentheses. “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” John puts this in parentheses as a note. I believe that he is telling us that at this point their understanding was limited as to what had really happened. After this note that is when he goes on to write that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her He was alive. When that happened then they began to understand all that had happened. So your notes should read that, “the disciples didn’t know exactly what an empty tomb meant.” It’s not just John who leads us to think that way, look at Luke 12, “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” They knew something had happened, but they weren’t sure what.
There are so many lessons that we can take from that. First of all it’s why we need to be not only in church but in a Bible study. It can be Sunday School, it can be Wednesday Nights, Saturday morning, one of the small groups that we offer occasionally, but you need to be in a Bible Study to talk about the things of God with other people of God. If even Peter and John weren’t sure what Jesus did, when He had personally shown them in the scriptures what He was going to do before He did it, if they didn’t know what He was going to do and didn’t immediately understand what He had done, then we’re going to miss stuff to if we are on our own. Fortunately the disciples had other people to explain it to them. Jesus told Mary, the angels told the ladies, then they told the disciples and they knew in part.
But then Jesus did was Jesus does, He continued to preach. He wasn’t with them like He was before, that part of His mission was over, but He continued to appear to them, to not only teach them but to show them, as we look at these passages we see our Lord on a mission, to do three things. The first is that He proved it.
The resurrection is one of the single greatest things about Christianity. It sets us apart from every other religion. The grave of our founder is empty. Because it is so important the reality of it has been attacked since it happened. Matthew tells us that when the guards went are reported what happened that rather then being executed the priests gave them a large sum of money and then gave them these instructions, Matthew 28:13, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”